More beauty tips for hair, make-up and skincare, from the pros

In this blog I’ll be sharing more tips and tricks from the pros and general public, regarding hair, make-up and skincare.

Make-up

Colour will brighten the whites of your eyes.  You don’t have to put a lot of eyeshadow on during the day; even just some mascara and/or eye liner can define and “open up” your eyes.

Using eyeliner on the outside of the top eyelids or just in the corners of the eyes, will make your eyes look bigger.  A line, inside the bottom eyelid, will often make your eyes look smaller; so be careful if you don’t want your eyes to look smaller (tip from the writer).

I put clear mascara on my lashes before I apply black. It helps keep my lashes separated and stops the mascara from smudging (tip from Lucy Smith).

Hide dark circles with a peach or yellow-toned concealer.  These colours neutralise the purple smudges.

I hate using eyelash curlers, so instead I apply my mascara, heat a small teaspoon in hot water, dry it and then use the back of the spoon to gently push my lashes. Hold for a few seconds for the best curl (tip from Sheila Miller).

Do the lines round your eyes look worse after you’ve applied your make-up? Finish off by dabbing a tiny amount of eye cream to your eye area to keep it looking dewy and fresh.

Grooming your eyebrows? The narrower your face, the slimmer the outer ends of your brows should be. If you have a wider face, don’t make your brows too thin or it will emphasise the width even more.

Make your lips look bigger by using lighter colours of gloss. The lip-gloss reflects the light, thus making your lips appear fuller and sexier!

When I’m making up my lips, I apply lipliner and, instead of adding a lip-gloss, I use Blistex (can also use Vaseline or any other lip balm). Not only does it keep my lips super-moisturised, but it also stays on for ages, looks gorgeous and glossy too. Bonus is, it saves me money too (tip from Julia Jukes).

When I’ve run out of make-up remover, a cotton wool pad dipped in cold milk does the job perfectly and it’s gentle on my skin, too (tip from Lesley Urwin).

Keep unruly eyebrows in place by spraying hairspray onto an old, clean, dry toothbrush, then brush gently through your brows — they’ll stay put all day. Or you could try applying the tiniest slick of Vaseline for a gleaming finish.

Prep your lips for lipstick by applying an under-eye concealer first. It evens out the colour of your lips and stops the lipstick from bleeding too.

Heavenly hair

Want loose, natural waves for a night out? Celebrity hairstylist Richard Ward has the answer – “Curls always drop a lot — it’s better to over curl your hair so that by the time you go out it should look just as you want it.”

If your hair needs some TLC, heat your deep conditioner in the microwave for 30 seconds before you apply it. The warmth will help the conditioner penetrate your hair more easily and smoothing any dry ends.

You want to colour your hair at home, but can’t find the exact shade you want? Why not mix 2 different shades?  Expert hair colourist Anita Cox McMillan suggests “mixing two different shade packs together.  It’s a great way to add red tones to brown without it being overpowering, or to tone down a dark shade. But always stay two or three shades within your natural hair colour to avoid mistakes. Anything more drastic should rather be left to the experts.”

Everyone should own a set of Velcro rollers. They make your hair look like it’s had a professional blow-dry as they give natural-looking volume. Just pop them in and blast with a dryer. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then spritz with spray before removing.

I suffer from a dry, itchy scalp when I get stressed, but massaging olive oil onto my head at night relieves itchiness and soothes flaky areas (tip from Anne Clarke).

“Avoid product overload in your hair,’ says Richard Ward. “Rub the product into both your hands like hand cream until it’s nearly absorbed, then apply it to your hair.

Your hair only looks shiny when the cuticle lies flat. So always smooth a drop of serum onto damp hair and blow-dry with your dryer pointing down the hair shaft.

If your highlights are growing out, change your parting. It will give your colour a new lease of life until you have time to get to your hairdresser.

Brushing your hair 100 times a day not only massages the scalp, but it also oils your hair from the roots to the tips as you brush (tip from the writer).

Skincare

“When you’re applying your eye cream, always work from the inner to the outer corner of the eye; gently lifting the skin upwards.  Use your index finger and a small amount of product,” says Geraldine Howard, co-founder of a therapeutic skincare brand. “It helps smooth out fine lines and will drain the area of puffiness.”

“Using an SPF moisturiser all year round, especially on your face and neck is important,” says Catherine de Groot, co-founder of a natural skincare company.

If you want your facial mask to penetrate the skin more deeply, put cling wrap over (keeping your eyes and mouth open), for a few minutes.  If you feel you are beginning to sweat, don’t use any cling wrap.

Facial massage techniques are simple, easy ways to not only lessen the site of fine lines and wrinkles, but also help your skin to look healthy and more radiant.  According to Geraldine Howard, you can do the following:  “Apply a few drops of facial oil and massage out frown lines in an upwards and outwards motion, placing the middle fingers at the bridge of your eyebrows, bringing the fingers firmly up and out.”

Get rid of puffy eyes by popping some used tea bags in the freezer for a few minutes. When they’re chilled, cover your eyes for 10 minutes.  Sliced, cold cucumber can also do the trick.

Soothe an inflamed spot by applying a drop of lemon juice to it; not only will it remove bacteria, but it will also dry the whole area out too.

Use your facial peel or exfoliator on your upper arms as well as your face. It’s a great way to remove those little hard bumps (tip from Sarah Slight).

For a deep cleanse, hold a warm face cloth over your face for 10 to 15 seconds.  The warmth relaxes and softens the pores, so oils and dirt are more easily removed. You will also stimulate circulation, which in turn helps activate cell renewal so that your skin can repair itself faster.  Bonus is that a warm face cloth also helps to relax tired eyes!

“It is good to change your skincare with the seasons.  In winter skin can often dry out, so use products that are more nourishing.  During summer, skin can be oilier due to perspiration and heat, so use cleansers to balance it,” (tip from Catherine de Groot.

Want your make-up to look as if it’s done by a pro?   Make-up artist Melissa Evans share these tips:

Want to look younger? Use cream foundations as they blend more easily and won’t sit in lines and wrinkles. If you need heavier coverage try building up a few light layers.

To make your eyeshadow last, you should always use a primer but, to save money, try using your foundation.  Put a small amount over your lids and blend well.  Then apply some powder before you put on your eyeshadow, otherwise your eyeshadow will cling to wet areas and look uneven!

Cream blush is a must in your make-up bag.  Our skin tone can fade as we age and cream blush adds a really gorgeous glow to your skin.

Think you’re too old to try smoky eyes? Never! Opt for matte shadows and flattering shades such as khaki, navy blue and soft grey. When applying your shadow, lift your brow so you can see the crease line and, to give hooded eyes an instant lift, blend the colour slightly above that crease line so you can see it when you look straight ahead in the mirror.

Never use those terrible sponge applicators you get with your eyeshadows; they won’t distribute the eyeshadow evenly.  Rather invest in some good brushes instead — they’re worth their weight in gold and will save you product wastage too.  For best results, use synthetic brushes for cream products and goat and squirrel or sable brushes for powder ones.

Avoid eyeshadows with too much shimmer — they can highlight creases and wrinkles and you can look older than what you are! 

Beauty tips to keep your body, hands and feet in tip-top condition; coming to you from the beauty pros

There are some beauty secrets every woman should know and, reading through old magazines, I came across a number of great tips, that I’ll share in 2 blog posts.  Here are the first tips for your body, hands and feet.

Fabulous feet and hands

Applying a thick layer of Vaseline or other moisturizing foot cream to your feet at night, then putting on a pair of cotton socks.  When you wake up the next day, those hard heels will be soft and smooth.

Using a buffer to bring your nails to a high shine before painting them. Polish will go on more smoothly and last longer.

When applying your face cream, always dab a little on the back of each hand and massage in to keep them soft and smooth (tip from Jackie Burns).

Smooth over each nail with a cotton pad soaked in nail polish remover before painting them. This removes all trace of oil from the nail and prevents air bubbles.

Apply two or three very thin coats of nail polish rather than one thick coat that won’t adhere to the nail as well.

When your favourite tube of hand cream seems empty, cut off a corner at the bottom and squeeze it from there — plenty more (tip from Jane Price).

Wearing nail polish or a big ring:  research has found that adorning your hands with either nail polish or a big ring (a few smaller ones), makes them look younger.

Body beautiful

If you’ve waxed your bikini line, a nappy rash cream like Elizabeth Anne’s Baby Nappy Rash Cream, will calm any irritation.

Want to reduce scars and stretch marks? Rosehip oil or pure vitamin E cream or oil, can reduce the colour and appearance of both.

‘Citrus scents give a feeling of youthfulness, so people think you’re younger than you are,’ says fragrance expert Roja Dove.

Apply plain yoghurt to mild sunburn — it adds moisture and cools things down (tip from Kathryn Croft).

Keep candles and bath oils in the bathroom ready for that relaxing me-time.

Haven’t got the time and/or energy for some me-time?  Light a candle, even if it’s just for a quick bath or shower.  The candle light will help to relax your mind and, washing with a lovely scented body wash, will bring joy to the senses (my tip).

Discovering, reconnecting with and loving the real you

In the modern world it is, for some bizarre reason, more important to some to take care of their external bodies, but neglect their inner self.  However, as more and more people are becoming aware that our bodies function as a unit, more and more people realize that, in order to live a truly happy, healthy and peaceful life, one has to look after one’s inner self.  This includes your thoughts, feelings, emotions, spirit and soul.

As we know, the mind is divided into 2 parts:  a conscious mind and a subconscious mind.  The conscious mind is the one that is always busy; it can distinguish what is right and wrong, good and bad, and so forth.  The subconscious mind is like the hard drive of a computer; it stores all your thoughts, feelings, emotions, things that you said and were said to you, and so on.  Unlike the conscious mind, the subconscious mind cannot distinguish between right and wrong.  If, for example you are told or tell yourself that you are stupid / fat / ugly, then the subconscious mind will store that thought (words) and you will not only believe it to be true, but “become” it, as it were!

The job of the subconscious mind is also one of “auto-pilot;” you navigate through life, doing things, going places, without really thinking about it.  How many of you haven’t told someone “it comes naturally?”  Our thoughts are powerful; they create our words, our words create our feelings, our feelings create experiences and behaviours, and in the end it creates our beliefs and, ultimately, our reality.

Depression, stress and panic attacks are, unfortunately, on the rise.  As we navigate through this modern life, we don’t take “time-out” to get rid of stress, we might not be eating well and/or exercising at all, and many are sleep-deprived.  Add to the list social media and media in general, that bombard us with negative news, and you cannot blame yourself or anyone else for freaking out!

So, you might ask, what am I supposed to do?  The short answer is:  start by taking one step per day and consciously choose what you think, what you say, what you read, what you listen to and who you engage with.  When you have been told (or told yourself), for example, that you are not good enough; stop the thought in its track the minute it pops up!  Change it by telling yourself “I am good enough.” 

At first it will be tricky, because your subconscious mind will think otherwise, but write it down on pieces of paper that you stick up in the kitchen, on your mirror, in your car, and everywhere else where you can see it throughout the day.  Read it out loud, or say it in your head, but never stop.  The more you do this, the more your subconscious will start to not only believe it, but it can change the negative thought into a positive one.

Add some emotions too – whether you are reading it or saying it, practice every time to put more “happy” emotions into it.  Smile when you say it or read it, say it like you mean it.  If you still struggle, imagine that you are telling your best friend or child this. No, it is not easy; especially if it is something that you believed for a number of years.  However, persistence is key – peeling back the layers takes time. When you can stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eyes and tell yourself “I am good enough, I am beautiful,” and so forth, then you have come full circle and broken down the false narratives that were stopping you from connecting with your true, authentic self!

The first step is to let go of all the preconceived ideas you had of yourself.  Whether you learn how to meditate, journal, or just make time for yourself to be quiet, is a good step in your journey.  Realizing that you are worthy, loved, good enough, and so forth, will help you reconnect with your inner self.  When you listen to your heart and your inner voice, the changes will start.  It is in our hearts where love, compassion, joy, peace and empathy reside, and to get us back on track in this crazy world, we need to reconnect with it.

Our inner self is part of who we are authentically; ignoring it or supressing it will only bring us tears, frustration, stress and loneliness.  After all, if you are not happy to be on your own, then you won’t be happy even if you had someone.  Being happy with who you truly are, on the inside and on the outside, is the key to true happiness, peace, joy and love.

“If you want to change the outside, then change the inside.”  It is never too late to connect with our inner self.  Dr. Phil once said “if you don’t look after yourself first, then who will?”  And it is true:  we must learn and teach others that true love = unconditional love.  Real love begins by loving ourselves and being in touch with our inner self.

So – go on – take the leap, the first step and reconnect with your inner self!

Collagen: the secret to a firmer, younger-looking skin

Collagen is a long, fibrous, structural protein, that gives the skin its elasticity and strength. 

It is an ingredient which you will find in many serums, masks, moisturisers and also in supplemental powders, capsules and liquids.  However, you can also find it in many foods (which I will mention a little bit later).

Apart from aiding our skin’s elasticity, collagen is not only the most abundant protein in the body, but also acts as a supporting base structure for the skin.  This is giving our skin its bounce and plump.  Interestingly, collagen is also found in organs, blood vessels, bones and tendons, and acts to bind tissue together.  Our skin is rejuvenating itself all day, every day.  Not only is it shedding dead skin regularly, but it is constantly making new collagen.

Unfortunately, due to our modern-day life that is filled with environmental stressors, exposure to UV radiation and of course ageing, collagen production starts to decline. This, in turn, causes fine lines, wrinkles to appear and sagging skin.  During menopause collagen declines much more…but no worries my readers, there are many foods you can consume, that will help your body to build and maintain collagen-levels. 

Here is a list of a number of different foods that is full of natural-building collagen:

Bone broth, chicken, fish and shellfish, Egg whites, Soya products, Cabbage, Red Fruits and Vegetables, Beans, Berries, Almonds and Cashews, Avocados, Citrus fruits, Tropical fruits, Garlic, Leafy greens, Tomatoes and Bell peppers.

The abovementioned foods are just a few different sources.  A diet full vitamin- and mineral rich fruits and vegetables, as well as protein-rich foods (can be animal- or plant-based sources), is a good lifestyle choice to make, to help supply these critical amino acids to the body.  Other nutrients that also aids collagen-production include vitamin C, copper and zinc.  For best results, regardless of your age, cut back on or cut out too much sugars and refined carbohydrates from your diet, as this cause inflammation and damages collagen.

Today there is many different collagen supplements on the market, ranging from powders and shakes, to tablets.  Researchers agree that this can aid your body’s collagen-production and boost skin elasticity, but warns people that it is not closely regulated. 

So before purchasing and using a product; do make sure it is from a reputable provider. Also; don’t forget the wonder of water – drinking enough water will also help to keep your body nourished on the inside, as well as moisturized on the outside!

Pedicures at home

Before you start, make sure you have all the tools you are going to need:  file, nail clipper, nail polish removal, pumice stone (for hard and/or dry skin on the heels), warm water, a towel, and of course, lovely salts / foot soak-oils and lotion.

If you are wearing nail polish, first remove it (try to use acetone-free remover, as this is far less harmful for and less irritant on the skin).  Then dip your feet into warm water, filled with some lovely bath salts / bath oils (many brands, for example Avon, sell the latter).  You can use a pumice stone or a foot file to get rid of any dry and/or hardened skin on the soles of the feet and heels, or you can use bath salts / foot salts to gently exfoliate the whole foot (homemade recipe to follow).

Once the feet are soft, dry it with a towel and, if need be, cut your toenails.  After all the work is done, massage lotion into your feet while it is still warm.  This will help to not only absorb it quicker, but it will also help to lock in moisture.  Now you can choose:  you can either put on some cotton socks and leave it on for the whole day / night, or for a few hours, and then paint your toenails the following day.  Or you can paint it after your manicure and then put cotton socks on.  The socks will help to keep the feet soft while the lotion is doing its magic. 

Here are a few easy-to-make recipes for a nice foot scrub:

A soothing Peppermint Foot Scrub

Ingredients

1 cup granulated sugar

Olive or coconut oil

Few drops of peppermint essential oil

Method

Take 1 cup granulated sugar and pour into a mixing bowl.  Gradually add your olive- or coconut oil and mix together until you have a slightly wet, but grainy consistency. Add a few drops of the peppermint essential oil.  Transfer the scrub to a container and use it to exfoliate, moisturize and soothe your sore feet.

Refreshing Lemon Foot Scrub

Ingredients

2 cups granulated sugar

1/4 – 1/3 cup Almond- or coconut oil

6 – 8 drops of lemon essential oil

Method

Combine the sugar and oil in a clean, dry bowl.  Pour the oil slowly until you have a soft, wet-sand consistency.  Add as much lemon essential oil as you like and work it into your feet for 5 minutes, before rinsing it off.

Milk Scrub Treatment for Cracked Heels

Ingredients

1 cup milk

5 cups warm water

4 tablespoons sugar or salt

1/2 cup baby oil

Pumice stone

Moisturizer

Socks

Method

Pour 1 cup of milk and 5 cups of warm water in a foot bath tub or large basin and soak your feet for 5 to 10 minutes.  In another bowl, pour baby oil and sugar or salt in and mix well. Mix it into a thick paste and apply all over your feet, by massaging your feet in circular motions.  Using a pumice stone, gently scrub your dry / callused heels.  Rinse your feet off and pat dry.  Apply your chosen moisturizer and put some cotton socks on (either wear it for a few hours or sleep with it).

Homemade Foot Soak for Achy Feet

Ingredients

Hot water

2 tablespoons vinegar

Epsom salt or sea salt

Method

Fill a foot bath or large basin with hot water.  Add the vinegar and mix in a handful of Epsom salt or sea salt.  Soak your feet for 20 minutes.  Repeat the mixture but use cool water and instead of soaking your feet, soak a towel in the cool mixture.  Squeeze the excess water out and wrap the towel around your feet for 5 minutes.  This can be done several times a day, if you have inflammation in or if your feet is just aching.  The vinegar not only makes achy, tired feet feel better, but it also alleviates inflammation.

If you are low on nail polish, or you want a new colour but can’t find what you are looking for, why not pop over to my previous blog post, where I gave some easy DIY tips on making your own nail polish.

Sit back, put on some good music and/or light a candle, and give your feet the pampering they deserve.  After all, together with your legs, they work hard every day!

Home-manicures

At the present moment, when many of us have to stay indoors, a manicure and/or pedicure is something that can be sorely missed by many of my lady-readers I’m sure!  Nothing makes you feel more fab than putting on your make-up, dressing beautifully and classy, and having your nails (and yes hair) done.  Apart from the situation we are all in at the moment, manicures can be time-consuming and make a real dent in your bank balance!

Have no fear though, because I came across some easy DIY’s for a manicure in the comfort of your own home.  These nail polish hacks are not only easy to do, but will give you the salon-style look without breaking the bank.

The French-tip cheat 

First paint your nails with a base coat.  Once it has dried completely, wrap an elastic band (about a quarter of the way) down your nail.  Use this as a guide for creating the perfect tip.  Now apply the top coat – pastel shades are quite in fashion; or you can opt for the more classic white.

Revive your polish

Has your favourite nail colour become thick and gloopy?  Have no fear – pour a small amount of nail polish remover into the bottle, and shake it well.  This will thin out the varnish. Et viola; your nail polish is good to go!  

Just a tip, from personal experience.  The older the nail polish, the thicker it becomes and you might have to pour in much more varnish.  Sometimes it works but sometimes not.  In that case, rather buy yourself a new nail polish (as the older, thicker one doesn’t last on your nails that long either)!

Tailor-made shades

You can reuse your old, almost finished eyeshadows, by simply crushing them into loose powders and mixing them with a clear polish.  Quick, easy and there you have your own, new, unique nail colour.

Save your chipped manicure

Did you ever have one of your newly polished nails chip?  By adding a cool “dipped in glitter” tip, you can easily hide the chip(s).  Just blob a little shimmery polish onto the end of your nail and then brush it downwards to create a sparkly ombre effect. It also looks great just on its own.

Bye-bye blunders

Painted over your cuticles by mistake?  Just clean the area with an old lip brush or small paintbrush, dipped in nail polish remover!  Cotton wool can also work, but be careful not to use a big piece – and don’t be in a hurry either! 

Quick-dry tip

We all had, at some stage, been in a hurry or “I’m going to be late” situation.  There are a few tools on the market that says it’ll dry your nails quickly, and there are nail polishes that promises “quick dry.”  But, what if neither of it works as promised?  No worries!  Air dry your painted nails for a minute, then simply dip them in ice water for two minutes.

Make it stay

The experts suggest to first paint a base coat onto your nails, before putting on your nail polish.  Not only will this prevent your nails from staining, but it can help the polish to stay on for longer (similar to painting your nails with a top coat afterwards).  However, if you don’t have either one in your cupboard, or you want to try out a new shade first, you can wipe your nails with a cotton pad dipped in vinegar before applying your nail polish. This will strip the nail of any excess moisture that can lead to air bubbles and also helps the nail polish to adhere better.

Preventing stains 

In the beforementioned paragraph, I wrote about using a brush dipped in nail polish remover, to get rid of nail polish on your cuticles.  BUT; if you’re short on time, just rub some Vaseline or aqueous cream around the cuticles before putting on your nail polish, to catch any stray brush strokes.

Glitter polish tip

Some ladies just love sparkly nails.  Making them look great and last longer, however, is another story.  First apply a coat of plain coloured nail polish and let it dry completely.  Once dry, paint a few strokes of your favourite glitter polish onto a make-up sponge and dab it over the coloured coat.  Top it off with a top coat and sparkle! 

Soak off dark colours

Light nail polish colours come off quite easily; it is the darker ones that can be trickier. For the latter, soak a cotton ball or cotton pad in nail polish remover and place it over each nail for 10 seconds. This will allow the nail varnish to dissolve and slide off the nails easier.

Peel off glitter

Struggling to remove those tough-to-remove glitter shades?  Just pour some PVA glue into an old, empty nail polish bottle and use it as a base coat.  When you want to change your manicure, you simply peel off the nail polish.  But remember: don’t bite your nails!

Banish stubborn nail stains

Simply mix a little baking soda with warm, almost room temperature water and soak your hands for 10 minutes. Those nail stains will soon disappear before your eyes!

Whether you want to try out new tricks and colours, or always struggled with nail stains, or not knowing what to do if one of your newly manicured nails got chipped, I do hope that this article inspired you to treat yourself and/or your daughter, to a homemade manicure and some pamper time! 

A few more nutritional-tips to help boost your immune system

Whether there is a virus, cold or flu going around, it is always important to boost your immune system and keep it strong.  Oftentimes, people get ill when seasons change.  This often happens because of sudden drops and spikes in temperature, or being in a cold environment (for example aircon), then going outside into the heat, or being indoors where it is warm, then going outside where it is cold.

Vitamin C

Our good friend vitamin C, is a good helper when it comes to helping the body to defend itself from being infected. One of the benefits of including vitamin C in your diet is strengthening your body’s natural defence. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin; therefore you need to take it every day (preferably on an empty stomach before breakfast).  A buffered vitamin C-powder is a good alternative to the tablets, should you have a sensitive stomach. Alternatively, one large roasted red pepper (preferably organic) and 125ml glass of orange juice (fresh oranges contain a higher vitamin C-dose than juice in a carton) will give you the same amount.

Vitamin A

‘The membranes in our nose and throat are our front-line defence against bacteria and viruses, and vitamin A keeps them healthy,’ says dietitian Nichola Whitehead. You can get the amount you need daily from one large orange sweet potato (excellent baked), or a large handful of spinach thrown into a salad.  Organic veggies are a good option, as their nutritional value is much higher.

Iron

If you’re deficient in iron, your immune system works less efficiently. ‘Premenopausal women need 14,8mg a day of iron,’ says Nichola Whitehead. ‘You can get it by eating 60g of liver.’ Not a fan of liver? Try beef, tofu, clams, mussels or dried apricots. 

Zinc

Zinc is essential for wound healing, blood clotting and thyroid function, and it will also alleviate cold symptoms. We need 7mg a day. Dark turkey meat is a great source (100g gives 5mg), or try a 150g steak. Or take in pill form if you are a vegetarian or don’t eat a lot of red meat.  Just beware not to overdose, as this could lead to liver damage.   

Protein

Without protein your immune system can’t function effectively. According to dietician and nutritionist Susie Burrell, eggs are one of the highest protein-containing foods, with more than 20 essential vitamins and minerals. In general, most women can get all the protein they need by adding a serving of two eggs, 100g cooked chickpeas or 100g meat, fish or poultry to each their meals.

Probiotics

These are live bacteria which help keep your gut healthy. A daily serving of miso soup, natural yoghurt or fermented foods like sauerkraut is all you need. If you can’t manage that, a probiotic supplement is a good idea for boosting your immune system.

A good old cup of tea

We all need a chemical called interferon as it helps us combat viruses. It’s found naturally in our bodies, but the amino acid L-theanine prompts our immune system to make more of the stuff – and guess where you find it? In a good old cup of tea! And it doesn’t have to be special tea: A study showed that everyday tea had the desired effect.

At the end of the day, remember that our bodies can function at an optimum level 24/7.  Stress, eating junk- and processed food, drinking sodas, smoking, and not getting any exercise, will be detrimental to our bodies.  Not just will it be visible on our skin and face, but internally those organs that were made to protect the body against foreign bodies, will stop working 100%. 

So, wherever you are, take a deep breath, open the windows and/or doors to let some fresh air in, make yourself a nice cup of tea, and relax! 

Stress

With everything that is going on at the moment, I thought to change gears, so to speak, and talk about stress. Most importantly; how to deal with it and keep yourself calm and healthy during times of stress.  Stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.”  This can be external (coming from the environment, psychological, for example death of a loved one, or social situations).  It can also be internal (an illness or a medical procedure).

When stress kicks in, it initiates the “fight or flight- “response; a complex reaction of endocrinologic and neurologic systems.  It is the way our bodies respond to any kind of demand.

Stress is not always harmful.  For example, when we need to learn for an exam, or go for an interview, the body excretes adrenalin (a chemical that can make your heartrate go up).  This makes you more alert, helps you to concentrate and have clear, sharp focus and thoughts.

Stress, however, can become a problem and can cause harm (more in that in a minute), if we don’t get rid of our stress.  When we “bottle our feelings” up, or don’t take “time out” to relax after a busy day / week at work or school, then the body starts to break down its own immune system to try and cope.

When this happens, and your immune system is low, you are not only more prone to illness and disease, but you will become more and more irritable, angry, tired and even tearful.  What is disease?  Dis-ease is when the body is not happy with how its functioning; there is a dis-ease somewhere in the body.  And the only way, for our bodies to cope, is to let you know (sending out a signal/s) like tiredness, sleepiness, and so on.  When we ignore the signs, then the immune system kicks in.  Alas, when we have depleted our bodies’ reserves, nothing is left for the body but to become ill, in order to not only heal itself, but also to give us a wake-up call, so to speak, to slow down, rest, recover / recouperate and get rid of our stress.

I am sure many of you know that exercise is one of the many ways to help you get rid of stress.  Deep breathing is another wonderful way; when you focus on inhaling for 8 – 10 counts, deeply and slowly, and then exhaling the same way, you not only slow down your heartrate (which spikes when you stress or get angry), but you also calm the mind.  As more oxygen can now flow in and out of the body, your whole body starts to relax; your muscles relax, the areas where you normally carry your stress relax, and you can “think before you speak,” become calm and focused.

It is important to maintain a strong immune system, whether or not you are under severe stress or not.  The stronger the immune system, the better chance you have of either not getting ill, or, if you do, to get over it far quicker.

Vitamins, minerals, omega oil, the type of food you eat and drink, all play an important role.

Vitamin C (found in citrus fruit, parsley, and so forth), Vitamin D (direct sunlight or tablet-form), Vitamin A (yellow and orange fruit and vegetables), Zinc (supplements), and Vitamin B6 & B12 (found in meats or supplement if you are vegetarian), are all important.  Vitamin 12, for example, plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system and it is the first vitamin that the body uses when under stress!

Food sources like Red and Yellow bell peppers, Broccoli, Garlic, Spinach, Yoghurt, Almonds and other nuts, Seeds (linseed, sunflower seed, and so forth), Papaya, Bone broth, Poultry (think of your gran’s or mom’s homemade Chicken soup), Green tea (preferably the organic tea), and spices like Turmeric, Oregano, Garlic, and Ginger, can all help to maintain a healthy immune system.

Staying hydrated by drinking enough water is important, as well as getting enough sleep.  Do make sure that you sleep enough hours, in a dark room, without any lights (natural and artificial), in order to give your body and mind time to replenish, renew, rebuild and heal.  If you have your cell phone next to your bed, or the television is on “sleep,” that can also disturb your sleep, because the brain cannot “switch off” completely.  It is important to “switch off” as this is the only time that your body has to renew and heal itself!

Another tip, which I mentioned in previous blogs, is to maintain a healthy gut.  When the pH-level in your gut is too acidic, it creates a wonderful place for germs and viruses to breed.  If, however, your pH-level is alkaline, the chance of something breeding is minimal; if not zero.

All in all, I would like to mention and even stress, that “that which you fear you attract.”  Instead of “going crazy” take a step back, take a deep breath, go outside if it is possible, and know that, “this too shall pass.”  When you don’t take care of yourself, get rid of your stress either by meditating, exercising, journaling, or relaxing in a hot tub, not only will your body suffer, but also the people around you.

My late grandfather always said “if you worry, you die, if you don’t worry, you might also die…so why worry?” 

Natural antibiotics

I am sure all of us, at one point or another, were given antibiotics by our medical practitioner or pharmacist.  In this article I am not going to defend it, nor am I going to tell you not to use it.  Instead I am going to tell you, my readers, more about antibiotics that you can find in your kitchen cupboard and in the supermarkets or health shops.

Garlic

Garlic not only has antibiotic- and antiviral properties, but also antifungal and antimicrobial properties.  It can help your body to get rid of invading organisms and supports your immune system at the same time.  Because garlic is a strong antioxidant, it rids the body of free radicals, therefore preventing them from damaging your cells.  For the body to absorb it optimally, crush or chew it before swallowing – this releases the active enzymes it contains.  You might be thinking: eat it raw?  No way!  If that doesn’t appeal to you, you can soak it in warm water and drink it as a tea, use it when you cook, or buy a natural, good-quality tablet at your nearest pharmacy or health shop.

Oregano oil

Oregano oil fights infections and keeps parasites at bay.  A study, that was published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, found that oregano oil wipes out at least 5 different types of bacteria!  What is more, is that this herbal oil can be used in many different ways.  For example, you can add some drops in hot water and breathe it in for sinus infections, you can place some drops in a foot bath to get rid of toenail fungus, and you can even clean your home with it to keep bacteria at bay!

Do make sure that the oregano oil is organic and medicinal (should you want to ingest it).  Best to always dilute it with some water or mix it with a carrier like olive oil, before you take it orally.  If you have never used this orally, best to make sure you are not allergic to it.  I would suggest to just boil it (like a tea) and inhale it – again this should not be done if you are allergic.  As always, if in doubt, speak to a medical practitioner or pharmacist that have knowledge of natural, herbal medicine, before drinking it.

Honey

Honey is one of the oldest known natural antibiotics in the world.  It contains a compound called hydrogen peroxide, which apparently account for its antibacterial properties. Honey has a high sugar content, but interestingly, it is this high sugar content that seems to stop the growth of some bacterial species.  It has low pH levels that contribute to dehydrating bacteria, which causes them to die off.

Honey can be directly applied to a skin-injury to ward off infection and can be used for treating coughs and sore throats. Best to use raw, organic honey as refined types may have some of the benefits stripped away.  Be careful if you are sensitive to / allergic to honey.  Some people cannot use any kind of honey, so always check before you use it orally.

Ginger

Ginger has been used as a natural antibiotic for thousands of years.  In Asia ginger is served with many dishes as it has food poisoning prevention properties. Ginger has antibiotic effects against some of the deadliest food-borne pathogens like salmonella, listeria and campylobacter.  It also possesses antiviral properties that can help your body overcome invading pathogens.  Ginger is wonderful to use if you are nauseous or suffer from flatulence or gas.

Making some tea with fresh, raw ginger pieces, steeped for a few minutes, is wonderful.  You can add fresh lemon juice, a touch of cayenne pepper, and/or garlic – a highly effective immune boosting tonic that will help you to overcome infections naturally.

As I have said in my introduction, antibiotics is sometimes necessary.  When you have to use it, make sure to take something like Interflora (a probiotic) as antibiotics can break down the flora in our gut / stomach.  Something as simple as treating the wrong types of infections with antibiotics, or forgetting to / not wanting to finish the antibiotics’ course, can cause the bacteria to become resistant to their mechanism of action and start to thrive.  Viral infections, for example, cannot be treated successfully with antibiotics, therefore it might be a good idea to first turn to Mother Nature (and your kitchen cupboard), before using prescription antibiotics.

So yes, by all means, have that pizza or pasta-dish with garlic, oregano, etc, etc, and let us remember what generations before us used, long before medicinal antibiotics came on the market!

Exercises / movements that’ll keep your circulation going whilst on a flight (and even at your desk)

I am sure we all stretch, stand up and walk around a bit when we’re on a long-haul flight; and even when we’re at the office, sitting for long hours a day.  Our bodies are not made to be / stay still all the time – movement is vital.  Not only to keep blood circulation going, but also to maintain the oxygen-flow in and out of the body.

Here are a few exercises / movements that you can do, whether you are in an aeroplane or at your office desk.

Seated-exercises  This can be done whether / not you are able to get out of your seat in the plane:

  • Heel and toe lifts:  sitting up straight, with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, lift your heels up (as if you are standing on your toes).  Then leave your heels on the floor and lift your toes.  Repeat this a number of times (with or without shoes on, as long as the shoes or socks don’t pinch you).
  • Head-, neck-, and shoulder rolls:  slowly drop your chin to your chest, then slowly roll it to the right and left.  Another way is to keep your head up and look over to the right-, then left-side.  You can also tilt your head (as if you want to touch your shoulder with your ear), to the right and to the left.  Please do this slowly and never roll the head back.  You can look slightly up at the ceiling, but never “squash” your neck vertebrae.  Not only is it bad for circulation, but it is also dangerous, as the neck vertebrae is not as thick as the rest of the vertebrae in your spine
  • Flexing and pointing your feet and hands are another easy way to keep the blood flowing.
  • Flinger flicks / Castanets:  spread out your finger, then bring your pinkies in toward the centre of the “heels” of your hands, then back out, without moving any of your other fingers.  Do this 10 times, then repeat with the other fingers.  Now do one finger at a time (as if you are playing castanets). 

To do the flicks, simply imagine that you are flicking water off your fingers, by tapping your thumb with each finger individually.

  • Spread out your fingers and/or your toes (if you’re not wearing shoes) as if they are a fan; in other words, try to create spaces in-between your fingers and toes.
  • Imagine that you have to use your toes to pick up a pencil on the floor.  Curl the toes, then relax them.  Repeat a few times.
  • Do the same as above, but instead arch your foot as if you have to pick the pencil up by lifting part of your foot up as well as your toes.
  • Interlink your fingers and, if you don’t know your neighbour, straighten your arms in the air and stretch your back.  This is a good way to separate the vertebrae and get oxygen and blood flowing.  This stretch can also be done to the front of the body – you will notice that your shoulder blades curve forward, so make sure to roll the shoulders back once you are sitting upright again.
  • Moving slightly forward in your seat, interlock your fingers behind your back, stretch the arms down and lift your head slightly to look up.  Again not above your head, but in front of you towards the roof.
  • A good lower back stretch, is to curve your back by pulling the tummy in and imagining that your belly button is touching the seat.  Doing this a few times is a good and easy way to release tension in the lower area.
  • Another good stretch for your back is to curl down slowly and touch the floor, then gently curl back into a straightened position. 
  • Crossing your one leg over the other, to form the number 4, lean slightly forward.  This will stretch your hips.
  • Sitting up straight, twist to the right, then left, making sure not to go too far.  It should feel comfortable, not uncomfortable.
  • Lastly, you can bring your one bent knee up to your chest, then the other.  Starting with the right leg is best, as the lymphatic system functions by flowing up on the right-side of the body towards the heart, then down the left-side of the body.

Standing exercises

  • Just like sitting, you can stretch your arms overhead or in front of you and reach either up towards the ceiling or as far forward as possible.  this can also be done behind you.
  • If you have space and nobody is going to be bothered, stretch one arm overhead by bending one / both knees slightly.  Bend over to the other side.
  • Whilst standing, lift your heels off the floor for 10 times, then bend your knees and, without locking the knees, raise your toes off the floor for 10 times.
  • Step out to the front with one leg.  Bend the front leg, making sure that the knee is in line with your ankle.  Straighten the back leg, trying not to bend the knee, and see if you can put your ankle down on the floor.  This is a good stretch for the hips and thighs.
  • Standing in the same position as above, bend the back leg, again making sure the knee is not over the toes, and straighten the front leg.  Lift the toes off the floor, lean slightly forward, keeping the front leg straightened at all times.  Slowly come back up, point and flex the foot and repeat with the other leg.  This is a good stretch for the hamstrings.
  • Standing in a V-position with your legs evenly spaced, gently bend the one knee and feel the stretch in the inner thigh.  Repeat on the other side.  And as always, make sure the knees are not over the toes, but rather behind them when you bend your knees.

Flying can be dreaded; especially if it is a very long flight.  One can only sleep for so many hours, read for so many hours, and sometimes the chatter can also start to dwindle.  Keeping our bodies moving, even when we’re in a small, restricted area like an aeroplane, is not only good for us physically, but also mentally and emotionally.

When our bodies move, our minds move, and we have the energy to “hang in there…we are almost at our destination!”

Take care and remember, keep yourself nourished, hydrated, and move around!  Soon enough you will hear:  “ladies and gentleman…we have landed!”